While brother’s body still held by Hamas, Ofek Shaul enlists in the IDF

At his mother’s request, the younger brother of Oron Shaul, whose body is still held by Hamas, will not serve in a combat unit.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Four years after his brother was killed in Operation Protective Edge, Ofek Shaul went to the enlistment center with his family to join the IDF on Monday. It is also exactly two years since he lost his father to cancer.

Shaul will serve as a military fitness instructor, honoring his mother Zehava’s request that he not enter a combat unit, which is the prerogative of every family who has lost a son in battle in Israel.

Shaul is doing his army service despite the fact that he and his family believe that the government has not done all in its power to bring back the body of his brother Oron, who was killed during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 when a Hamas fighter hit his APC with an anti-tank missile, killing him and another five soldiers.

Although his mother has spoken to the press many times on the subject, Shaul was quiet until now. He spoke publicly about his brother for the first time last month, when rumors began swirling about an agreement with Hamas in the making in order to exchange “quiet for quiet.” Under the alleged deal, Hamas would cease its arson terror attacks and Israel’s air force would end its retaliatory strikes.

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“The cabinet members are afraid to make the right decision,” Shaul stated at the time.

“The government must insist, the cabinet members should demand that my brother, and Hadar Goldin and Abera Mengistu and Isham Assad be included in any agreement [with Hamas], otherwise the agreement will not be signed,” he said, referring to Hadar Goldin, the other soldier whose body is being held by Hamas along with two live civilians.

Acknowledging that he was “in pain” and “angry,” Shaul questioned the lengths to which the government that sent his brother into battle sympathized with the family.

“For four years they simply don’t care about us, they don’t count us,” he accused. “They give us the feeling that we are a burden on the state, and why? Because we sent soldiers, including my brother, to defend the country, the citizens, everyone – including members of the cabinet?”

‘Mixed feelings’

As the family surrounded him in the enlistment center, his mother spoke about her own “mixed feelings” in seeing her third son exchange his civilian clothes for a uniform.

“I could say a lot today,” she noted, as reported in Walla news. “I can only hope that he will be successful, that he will enlist in peace and return in peace. I will wait for him at home…and hope very much that they will keep him safe in the army.”

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On Sunday, Shaul, along with his mother and older brother and the parents of Hadar Goldin, met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the first time in five months. According to a statement issued to the press afterwards, Netanyahu promised that “there would be no arrangement in the Gaza Strip without the return of the boys.”

The statement did not satisfy the families, the Goldins told the press after the meeting, explaining that the prime minister should be making aid to Gaza conditional upon the captives’ return.

“We were disappointed with the meeting with the prime minister,” they stated. “Netanyahu continues to surrender to Hamas.”